Turn right out of Brixton tube, right again at Foot Locker – burnt out during the August riots – travel half a mile along the road, and there, sandwiched between tower blocks and a railway line, one of Britain’s most unusual riding schools is taking shape.
The new 20x40m man ¨ge and row of boxes with eight alert heads looking out is the culmination of nine years’ fundraising by Ebony Riding Club.
The club caters for children from Brixton’s Coldharbour ward, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.
Lessons are free if parents are on benefits; others pay £6 for a half-hour.
Ros Spearing founded the club in 1996. “It’s been a monumental effort to get here,” she said. “The challenge now is to keep it going.”
The riding school will cost about £200,000 a year to run, but Ms Spearing said the benefits are immeasurable.
“None of these children would have any opportunity to ride if it wasn’t for us,” she said. “It gives them a sense of achievement and a healthy outdoor activity.”
Instructor Julian White agrees. “It teaches them about nurturing and responsibility,” he said.
“If you don’t fill your pony’s water bucket before you go home, he won’t get a drink tonight – it’s that taking responsibility they get here that can be lacking at home.”
Chloe Alleyne, 13, told H&H that the riding school has made a huge difference to her life.
“It’s like an escape from home and my little sisters,” she said. “I can get here in under two minutes – and groom before school.”
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Shanice Reid is hoping to join the Ebony alumni who have gone on to horsey careers.
“We’ve sent two to the National Racing School and two to Plumpton College,” said Ms Spearing.
For more information visit: www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk